I thought it was time to hear what the 3D chip manufacturers had to say to this issue. I contacted 3Dfx, nVidia and Real3D. Unfortunately it was already too late for contacting ATI, so didn't have a chance of getting their statement about these miraculous Rage Pro Turbo driver. Real3D took my request very seriously. They are not used to the tough PC 3D card market yet and I guess that's one of the reasons why they were most straight forward in helping to solve the puzzle with these high numbers the i740 is scoring in 3D Winbench 98. Although I may have thought that the i740 could have been optimized for 3D Winbench 98 in the beginning, I'm very sure that this is not the case. Real3D was taking this issue very seriously and they did not hesitate a second with a statement addressing the problem.
"Creating a level playing field to benchmark 3D graphics chips is a difficult and almost impossible assignment. Ziff Davis' intent to measure the performance and quality of graphics chips with the 3D Winbench tests is the most thorough attempt to date. However, Real 3D does not feel the entire purchase decision should be based on the results of 3D Winbench. We are a strong believer in evaluating how a graphics board performs with actual applications such as games, and just as important, taking a measure of image quality. It is this combination of performance and quality that gives you a true measure of how good a graphics board is. One without the other doesn't produce a compelling or exciting visual experience. With the StarFighter and Intel740, we believe what you get is a 2D/3D/video board offering the industry's best combination of both - price/performance and image quality."
Chris Stellwag, Real3D
I also send them a little interview, which reads like this:
1) You Real3D guys are pretty new in the PC graphics card business. What did Real3D do before?It is true Real 3D is new to the mainstream PC graphics board business, but we are certainly not new to the 3D graphics business. In fact, Real 3D and its heritage companies practically invented 3D graphics and computer image generation (that goes back to General Electric Aerospace, Martin Marietta, and then Lockheed Martin). We started with 3D graphics back in the 1960's with the Apollo space program when we designed Lunar Docking Simulators. In addition to our military heritage, you will also know Real 3D as the company who has provided Sega with arcade chips and boards since 1993, for both Sega Model 2 and Model 3 hardware. We continue to be Sega's arcade hardware provider and have shipped more than 200,000 systems since 1993. In mid-1996, Real 3D started co-developing a mainstream PC graphics chip, which was announced yesterday as the Intel740. Real 3D also makes high-end image generation systems (our PRO-1000 image generators) and a 3D scanning device called RealScan 3D.
2) How close are you working with Intel? Are you developing drivers together?We work very closely with Intel as a development partner on both the chip design and the drivers. We co-developed the reference drivers together and these became part of Intel's baseline drivers several months ago. Real 3D has continued to optimize and enhance the reference drivers for the StarFighter.
3) Was the i740 completely developed by Real3D or was it a joint venture between you and Intel?The 3D core of the Intel740 is primarily Real 3D's architecture; however, the entire development of the Intel740 was definitely a joint effort between Real 3D, Intel, and Chips & Technologies.
4) Is is correct that you have better chances of optimizing drivers, because you guys developed the chip and know it therefore inside out, or does this not come into account?We don't want to give away too many secrets, but because of our intimate knowledge of the 3D pipeline and the architecture of the chip, we certainly believe we have a better chance of optimizing drivers and getting the most out of the hardware. In fact, as you see in the cover letter I had sent you with the board, we don't believe any other 740-based board is going to perform at the level of the StarFighter.
5) How important is 3D Winbench for Real3D and how important do you think it is for the 3D card industry?This was addressed in the statement above.
6) Is it correct that drivers can be easily optimized for one application, e.g. 3D Winbench 98?I don't know if it can be characterized as "easy", in fact, it's extremely difficult. When you have highly skilled engineers like those we have at Real 3D and other board/chip companies have, though, if they put their mind and skills into optimizing for a particular game or application, the answer is usually yes.
7) Has Real3D optimized the driver of the Starfighter for 3D Winbench98?NO. NO. NO. The drivers for StarFighter are optimized for the very best performance without compromising image quality, which we think will become more and more important to gamers and serve as more of a discriminator in the future. Keep in mind where Real 3D's heritage comes from - the military where visual quality and fidelity means everything (it's not a stretch to say it means lives).
8) If you were a normal home or office user, would you base your buying decision on the 3D Winbench scores of a 3D accelerator?This was addressed in the statement above.
9) If 'no', what would you base your buying decisions on?A combination of performance and quality, of which Winbench serves as one of the benchmarks and would be a part, but certainly not the only thing. You also need to look at reputation, experience, and word-of-mouth (which is something a web site like yours delivers - good or bad. That's why your opinions are important to us). I know we don't have much of a reputation in the mainstream graphics board business, but people can certainly extrapolate and assume that if we do first-rate graphics for the military and Sega, we most likely know what we're doing with regards to 3D graphics.
10) Could you imagine that graphic card manufacturers would try and influence the buying decisions of users by optimizing their drivers particularly for 3DWinbench 98?Yes, we believe this could happen.
11) What are the strengths of the Starfighter in your opinion?Unmatched image quality at its price point, and certainly unmatched in a 2D/3D/video graphics board. The image quality combined with tremendous performance makes the StarFighter a board to seriously consider.
12) What are the weaknesses of the Starfighter in your opinion?You can always ask for more polys or more fill, etc., but we think right now the StarFighter has all the performance and features it needs to be a leader in this industry.
13) How's the weather in Orlando currently?Sunny and 75 through the weekend.
Thanks to Chris Stellwag, Real3D